Wednesday, August 3, 2011

cucina italiana

Our second class this term was based around Italian flavours and ingredients. This is the food I was brought up on and luckily easily available when we came to Australia. Italian food is a staple in many Oz households, I think the stir fry and noodle combos will quickly take over...

To start we had a hearty MINESTRONE, packed with veggies, beans and pasta. This is a pretty simple soup which relies on presentation and a good balance of flavours. You really can't go wrong with this recipe.

As a main we cooked CRISPY EGGPLANT & OLIVE BALLS served with POLENTA and SIMPLE TOMATO SAUCE. These are gutsy winter flavours that are comforting yet interesting enough to serve to guests.

As a side dish we served ROASTED BROCCOLI w/ PINE NUTS AND LEMON. If you've never roasted broccoli this will surprise you. The baking brings out the sweetness and intensifies the nutty flavour of the broccoli. A squeeze of lemon juice livens this dish up.

Finally, an egg free dessert, TIRAMISU. I'm always surprised by how much restaurants get away with charging for this simple assembled dessert. Coffee, liqueur, savoiardi biscuits and mascarpone never tasted so good.

The class voted for Greek food next week... here are this week's recipes, ENJOY!

A hearty Italian soup made with seasonal vegetables.
Serves: 6
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Equipment: chopping board, knife, vegetable peeler, garlic press, large pot and ladle.

¼ cup olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 celery stick, cut into ½ cm thick slices
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
200 gm pumpkin, peeled and cubed
2 zucchini, chopped
1 cup green beans, cut into 1” lengths

1 tin borlotti, cannellini or red kidney beans
1 tin Italian tomatoes
1 teaspoon mixed herbs
2 bay leaves
2 litres water
1 stock cube, vegetarian
1 cup small pasta, e.g. macaroni, shells or risoni
Salt & pepper

½ cup Italian parsley, chopped
½ cup Parmesan cheese
¼ cup virgin olive oil, extra for drizzling

1. In a large pot heat oil and gently fry the onion, carrot, celery and garlic for 5 minutes till softened.
2. Add the potatoes, pumpkin, mixed herbs, tinned beans, tinned tomatoes, water and stock cube.
3. Cook for 10 minutes till carrots have softened.
4. Add the pasta, zucchini and green beans and simmer till pasta is cooked.
5. Season with salt and pepper

To serve:
Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with chopped parsley and grated parmesan, drizzle with a splash of olive oil.
Minestrone is a complete meal that can also be served with chewy Italian bread and a dollop of pesto.
It keeps well in the fridge for a few days and freezes well.

There is no set recipe for Minestrone, feel free to use vegetables in season and whichever beans are available.
A cup of shredded spinach or kale can be stirred through towards end of cooking for an interesting flavour.

Serve as finger food or with pasta and fresh tomato sauce as a main course.
Serves: makes around small 32 balls
Preparation: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

Large pot of boiling water, knife, chopping board, wooden spoon, colander, large bowl, small bowl, fork, frypan, tray, paper towel

450 grams eggplant cut in 3cm cubes
1 tablespoon salt
100 grams breadcrumbs, fresh or “Panko”
25 grams pecorino or parmesan cheese, grated
50 grams kalamata or green olives, finely chopped
200 grams mushroom, finely chopped
1 large egg
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil, for frying
50 grams fine dry breadcrumbs, for frying

1. Salt 4 litres of boiling water and add the eggplant
2. Boil uncovered for 10 minutes, pushing the eggplant occasionally under the water
3. Drain eggplant in colander, cool and squeeze out excess water
4. Chop finely and place in a large bowl
5. Fry mushroom in a little olive oil till dry
6. Combine eggplant and mushroom
7. Add in parsley, fresh breadcrumbs, egg, garlic and cheese
8. Blend with a fork and season with salt & pepper
9. Cover frypan with a 2cm of olive oil and heat gently
10. Fry a little of the mix to check the seasoning, adjust if necessary
11. Roll remaining mix into 1” balls and set on a tray
12. Roll balls in dry bread crumbs till evenly coated
13. Fry the balls in hot oil, turning till golden brown all over
14. Drain on absorbent paper and cool slightly before serving

A satisfying yet gluten free alternative to pasta.
Serves: 6
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Equipment: chopping board, knife, garlic press, large pot with lid, frypan, wooden spoon, baking dish

4 cups water
1 ½ cups polenta
1 teaspoon salt
1 quantity Simple Tomato Sauce (recipe follows)
250gm Mozzarella cheese, sliced (optional)
100 gm Parmesan cheese
6 basil leaves, torn (as a garnish)

1. Bring the water to the boil in a saucepan with a tight fitting lid and add salt.
2. Whilst stirring the water, pour in the polenta in a thin stream.
3. Simmer and continue to stir with a long handled wooden spoon for 5 minutes.
4. Place on lid and sit at the back of the stove top whilst you prepare the sauce.

Simple Tomato Sauce
¼ cup olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
400gm tin Italian tomatoes, whole
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
Salt & black pepper

1. In a frypan, gently heat oil and fry the onion and the garlic till translucent and without colour
2. Add tinned tomatoes squishing them with your (clean) fingers.
3. Add oregano and cook for 10 minutes.
4. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

To serve:
Stir polenta well and pour into an oven proof serving dish.
If using mozzarella, place slices on top and place under grill to melt till golden and bubbly.
Serve spoonfuls onto plates topped with tomato sauce, a sprinkle of parmesan and garnish with torn basil leaves.

Variations: Polenta goes very well with roasted vegetables such as mushrooms, zucchini and eggplant.

This dish elevates humble broccoli to a delicious zesty dish.

Serves: 6
Preparation: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

Chopping board, sharp knife, large bowl, large shallow baking tray, lemon zester
Oven 180C

2 large heads of broccoli (c. 1 kilo)
1/3 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic
Salt and Pepper
¼ cup pine nuts
1 lemon
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated (optional)

1. Cut the broccoli into medium size florets
2. In a large bowl toss broccoli, olive oil, garlic and pine nuts
3. Spread evenly on baking tray and season with salt and freshly cracked pepper
4. Roast for 20 minutes till stems are tender
5. Just before serving, sprinkle with cheese (optional), lemon zest and lemon juice.

The cooked broccoli is great tossed through penne pasta.

Broccolini or cauliflower can also be cooked this way.

This coffee based dessert is a simple and popular treat.

Serves: 8
Preparation: 10 minutes
Refrigeration time: 2 hour minimum

Large bowl, whisk, metal spoon, spatula, glass or ceramic dish, grater or vegetable peeler, sieve

250 gm mascarpone cheese
300 ml cream
4 tablespoons pure icing sugar
2 tablespoons marsala/ brandy/ sweet sherry (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup strong coffee
3 tablespoons Kahlua or Tia Maria (optional)
18 savoiardi biscuits or sponge cake layers

50 gm dark chocolate, frozen
Cocoa powder


1. Whisk together mascarpone, brandy and ¼ cup coffee till well combined
2. Whip the cream and icing sugar together till soft peaks form
3. Gently fold the cream into the mascarpone mix
4. Pour the remaining coffee and Kahlua into a bowl
5. Dip half of the savoiardi biscuits into the coffee mix
6. Arrange to cover the bottom of the glass dish
7. Spread 1/3 of the mascarpone mix on top of the biscuits
8. Layer with another layer of dipped savoiardi biscuits
9. Spread with another layer of mascarpone mix
10. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours
11. Grate chocolate on top of the Tiramisu before serving
12. Dust lightly with cocoa powder using a sieve and serve.

Cut out individual circles from sponge and layer as above in a glass serving dish.

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